There's a lot of noise about the imminent departure of Jordan Pickford and I'm shocked that so much of it is positive.
The reality here is that many see numbers and jump to conclusions. The same people that complained about spending £14,000,000 on Didier Ndong will be those chuffed that £30,000,000 is the price tag on arguably the best keeper of our generation. But why?
We won't see that money. Our next manager, whoever that is, won't see that money. It will disappear into the ether, just another weeks earnings for the provvy man. “Balancing the books" is a rather loose term that's tossed around casually as if the financing of a football club is as simple as buying and selling. It isn't. Many other factors are used to weigh the scales of profit and loss in a multi-trillion pound industry. And while it would be lovely to presume that every sale made by SAFC will go into a little petty cash box that can be dipped in to to buy the next best thing - it couldn't be farther from the truth.
The facts are this: we're skint, we've got a shit squad bar a few precious individuals and by all accounts the sale of Jordan Pickford to Everton will do very little to change that - it's like taking a payday loan for a packet of crisps..
To be a successful club you really only need one thing - success. That doesn't come from selling assets, it comes from acquiring, keeping and utilising them. Like Jordan Henderson before him, the sale of Pickford will avail us very little. It will decrease the value of our squad, decrease the quality of our squad and decrease the likelihood of moving away from the troubles we've seen ourselves in over the last few years.
Clubs like Southampton are often used as an example of the benefits of a selling model, a team that produces quality graduates on a regular basis and shifts them on in a shrewd manner. But Southampton aren't desperate and that's the key difference here. Southampton can afford to sell on quality because not only do they produce twice as much as they move on, they reinvest wisely in both the current squad and the future. We aren't like that.
The debt that we're burdened with didn't come from simply spending incredible amounts on dross players; a huge portion of our expenditure over recent years is the result of constant corporate restructuring and an almost unbelievable managerial turnover which includes settlements and multi-million pound wages. Yes, large sums of money have previously been spent on inadequate recruitment, but consider something like De Fanti and the infamous Udinese model. Was that the result of a clear and thorough scouting process? Was that the best we could do? Of course not. It was the result of desperation brought about by the failures of an inexperienced owner, and in turn the profiteering cronies he allowed himself to be fooled into trusting.
In the last two years Sunderland have moved on players that we still haven't paid for - with more to come. Each transfer is conducted with a staggered payment scheme; there is no dump truck of cash rolling up to the SoL anytime soon and dropping gold coins at the feet of Ellis Short.
With relegation and parachute payments, the rough estimate of our income over the next two seasons stands at well over £100,000,000 and as of the most recent financial statements club debt was reduced from £170,000,000+ to just under £130,000,000 (nearly £70,000,000 of which is owed to our oh-so-gracious owner, by the way). Martin Bain, resident axeman, was brought in to "streamline" the club and has made a quick start of it with staff redundancies and short-sighted "deals" like the one selling Younes Kaboul to Watford for pennies, or failing to sign Yann M’Villa, and seemingly standing aside to let arguably our most valuable player walk away from us free of charge. Is there any reason to be cheerful about that? Of course not.
This transfer fee will not even dent our financial burdens, but more importantly it will not reverse the trend of Sunderland consistently failing to conduct their business in a productive fashion that will guarantee any kind of success.
At best we'll see what? Five million up front for Pickford, with the rest coming in installments equal to or less than that sum over four, five, six years. At best. The idea that this will somehow lead to a successful business model is, frankly, laughable. The idea that it will create a debt-free Sunderland that will enable us to bring in equally talented players and cement our place as a respectable club is nothing short of an embarrassing fantasy.
Success happens when teams succeed and teams that sell their biggest, nay, their ONLY assets do not succeed. Good teams are built around quality players, not thrown together with whatever scraps of cash can be scraped together after the important people (banks, ex managers, ex players, the owner) have got their payday first.
Great teams are built around great players and the cowboys running the show have shot themselves and all of us in the foot, yet again.
Am I happy for Pickford? No. He should be staying and fighting for the team that raised him, the club he claims to love. There's no shame in a season in the Championship and there's no restriction at international level to keep goalkeepers from that league out of the squad. It's stupid to think otherwise, there are two examples of this in the last four years alone.
Am I happy for Everton? No, I couldn't care less, we owe them nothing and there is no tangible connection between the clubs that makes me want to do them a favour at the expense of our own success. It's a cutthroat world is football, and it seems SAFC are always the victim - always the ones bleeding out. What I never expected (but really shouldn't be at all surprised by) was for the knife that cuts to be wielded by the people whose sole existence at the club is to benefit it.
So you can chirp on about how it's a good deal and he wanted to leave and we should be proud that we produce international level talent occasionally, but personally I'm going to be holding my head in my hands when our new manager gets another shoe string budget and I see not only the England Captain but the next name on the team sheet, another mackem we should have kept, playing at a level we will never relate to under the shoddy reign of this bunch of amateurs.